There is nothing like an election campaign to bring out Barack Obama's cheerleading for Israel. Knowing that he needs to hold on to his support in the politically important Jewish-American constituency, President Obama is planning to deliver an address this Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is reportedly going to announce plans to visit Israel – his first since taking office. In short, as he gears up for his re-election campaign, Obama is seeking to prove his pro-Israel credentials.
Excuse me for my skepticism, but I have already been burnt once. I was present on June 4, 2008 when Illinois Senator Barack Obama delivered a stirring speech before AIPAC in which he expressed his unwavering support for Israel. The speech came the day after he secured enough delegates to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination.
I rose to my feet and applauded along with many of the other 7000 attendees when candidate Obama declared :
I know that when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends. Good friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow and forever… I first became familiar with the story of Israel when I was 11 years old. I learned of the long journey and steady determination of the Jewish people to preserve their identity through faith, family and culture. Year after year, century after century, Jews carried on their traditions, and their dream of a homeland, in the face of impossible odds.
We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security.
Not when there are still voices that deny the Holocaust. Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel's destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don't even acknowledge Israel's existence, and government-funded textbooks filled with hatred toward Jews. Not when there are rockets raining down on Sderot, and Israeli children have to take a deep breath and summon uncommon courage every time they board a bus or walk to school.
Just look at what Israel has accomplished in 60 years. From decades of struggle and the terrible wake of the Holocaust, a nation was forged to provide a home for Jews from all corners of the world — from Syria to Ethiopia to the Soviet Union. In the face of constant threats, Israel has triumphed. In the face of constant peril, Israel has prospered. In a state of constant insecurity, Israel has maintained a vibrant and open discourse, and a resilient commitment to the rule of law.
Stirring words, to be sure. I wanted desperately to believe that he meant them. He even went so far as to promise that
Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided
However, I began to suspect that something was awry when he walked back his Jerusalem pledge the very next day. Then he cynically used Israel as a photo-op during a pre-election visit (he hasn't visited Israel since, while making a point to visit several Muslim countries).
I also looked into his past close associations and found they included extremist Palestinian sympathizers including his close friend from his Chicago days, Rashid Khalidi. Professor Khalidi went on to become the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University.
I came to distrust Obama's intentions and opposed his election primarily because I suspected that, once elected, he would revert to form and sell Israel out. That is precisely what has happened.
In his June 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, for example, President Obama characterized those 60 years of Israel's existence, about which he spoke so glowingly to AIPAC, as 60 years of "dislocation."
The Obama administration has tried to isolate Israel for what President Obama himself, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice call Israel's "illegitimate" settlements. The Obama administration has relentlessly sought to pressure Israel into making more and more concessions for a phony peace while asking virtually nothing of the Palestinians.
The latest outrage is the administration's equivocation in response to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to partner with the terrorist organization Hamas in a 'unified' Palestinian government.
Candidate Obama had told AIPAC in 2008 that
We must isolate Hamas unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements. There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations.
He was right back then. And things have only gotten worse since.
Yet we hear little in the way of denunciations from President Obama for Hamas's continuing rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, including its killing of an Israeli student with a rocket aimed at a school bus.
And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that we will have to wait and see before making a judgment regarding the new Hamas-Fatah unification pact:
…speaking for the United States, we are waiting to see the details. We obviously are aware of the announcement in Cairo yesterday. There are many steps that have yet to be undertaken in order to implement the agreement. And we are going to be carefully assessing what this actually means, because there are a number of different potential meanings to it, both on paper and in practice.
We've made it very clear that we cannot support any government that consists of Hamas unless and until Hamas adopts the Quartet principles. And the Quartet principles have been well known to everyone for a number of years. So we're going to wait and make our assessment
Wait for what? Hamas remains dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Hamas's prime minister, just last Sunday, showed yet again where Hamas is coming from when he called for the "end of Israel" and for "bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine." And a prominent Hamas MP and cleric said last week that, in a few years, there will be a "great massacre" of the Jews in Israel "to relieve humanity of their evil."
President Obama would do well to recall and follow what candidate Obama said three years ago to AIPAC about the need to "isolate" Hamas. But he isn't. For example, President Obama had a chance this week to condemn Hamas for its latest incendiary threats after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah in the Oval Office on Tuesday. Instead, according to the New York Times, he is reported to be seriously weighing a "peace" proposal that would push Israel to accept the entirely insecure pre-1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians. We hear nothing about asking the Palestinians (including President Abbas) to give up their bogus claims to "a right of return" for millions of refugee descendants – claims which are designed to achieve Hamas's goal of eliminating the Jewish state of Israel altogether.
President Obama will try to make all the nice sounding pitches to the pro-Israeli AIPAC audience this Sunday that he thinks they want to hear, in order to secure his Jewish-American political base. Don't believe him.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.